Book review: Strategies for Sustainability..By Adam WerBach

I bought this book amongst the numerous books displayed at the 2009 Netimpact (www.netimpact.org) conference. Probably the word ‘strategy’ and the fact that it was written by a former Sierra Club President is what made me pick this particular book.

I must say, it was a very interesting reading and I finished in a record 5 days. Of course, the fact that 2 of those 5 days were spent flying transatlantic and another 3 days recovering from a neck injury may have helped! But never the less, I would recommend it highly to any corporate worker out there.

Highlights of the book:

1. Sustainability includes going beyond just green and embracing social, environmental, economic and cultural sustainability (SEEC).

2. Companies would benefit from doing a STaR analysis. This means look at your company in terms of-
a. Social changes happening- How can you benefit from changes in society? Right now in US, health care and being sustainable are changing the social landscape. All companies in food production would benefit from producing more healthy products.
b. Technological changes- Phones (esp. mobile ones) do a lot more than making just phone calls. They are becoming a status symbol and personal statement for most users. Phone companies would benefit from understanding this and using latest technology to address this trend.
c. Resource changes-Oil, as we are finally understanding is a limited resource. Certain car companies, had they understood this earlier could have benefited from producing more fuel efficient cars.

3. A company has to have what the author refers to as North Star goals and always use that to guide strategical decisions by. This is described as the strategic direction towards which an organization drives to reach greater sustainability. Attributes being:
a. Solving a global human challenge; larger than a company’s challenge.
b. Achievable in 5-15 years
c. Personally actionable; everyone on board can contribute to it.
d. Optimistic and aspirational but not impossible.
e. Align with and benefit from a company’s strength.

4. The last new concept mentioned in his book was embracing a TEN philosophy. This I liked the most and I feel is the easiest to understand and implement. It basically advises to do every action keeping 3 things in mind:
a. Transparency- Celebrate transparency. Use inside and outsiders to help provide solutions by being completely transparent.
b. Engage- Employees really are your most valued assets. Engage them in the long term and see what remarkable results are achieved from listening to employees from all ranks.
c. Network- Embrace and manage the contributions of your network. StonyField farm leveraged UPS. They learnt from UPS and were able t0 reduce their carbon footprint substantially (50% reduction in 1st 18 months)

Some of the exemplary companies mentioned:

1. Xerox -Believes in reusing almost all manufactured components).

2. StonyField Farms-introduced the concept of organic food in the dairy market.

3. Nike- Created a ‘Considered team’ tasked with reducing Nike’s footprint.

4. Clorox Company- came out with better cleaning products (The Greenworks range of cleaners)

5. Pepsico- Introduced SunChips; made of whole grains and made using solar energy.

6. Interface- Promotes ‘mission zero’-wants to create zero impact on the planet from its products.

7. and last but not the least; Walmart- empowered employees by giving them access to PSPs (personal sustainability practice).

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